Photo by Mark Blower. Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze.

Last week, Frieze came to Los Angeles for the first time, expanding on its regular New York and London events.

The broader benefit of any big art fair — and certainly one with as much cultural cachet as Frieze — is the excitement and communal activity it brings to a city and Frieze LA didn’t disappoint. Its commissions and events, including Frieze Projects and Frieze Music, brought special tributes and surprises to the world’s entertainment capital, grounding the fair in its new locale.

The smaller than usual art fair took place at Paramount Studios, with only 70 galleries exhibiting work. As expected, the more Instagram-friendly pieces attracted a lot of attention, including Mike Kelley’s bed installation at Hauser & Wirth’s space, Judy Chicago’s zigzag sculpture at Jeffrey Deitch, John Baldessari and Lawrence Weiner’s text-based work at Marian Goodman, Dave Muller’s Hollywood mural at Blum & Poe, and Max Lamb’s furniture atop a gradient floor at Salon 94.

The backlot of Paramount Studios was the playground for the Frieze Projects works. A few were so embedded into New York City-looking sets that they were easy to miss, including Barbara Kruger’s street stickers and Trulee Hall’s Infestation. Paul McCarthy’s giant, inflatable ketchup bottle, meanwhile, was the most overt.

Curated by Ali Subotnick, each piece was rooted in the site specificity of both Los Angeles and the film lot. The experience of discovering outdoor pieces, spread out between buildings and actual film sets was refreshing and felt tailor-made for the audience.

The film programming was right at home at the Paramount Theatre and featured new work by Tala Madani, Cécile B. Evans, Tom Sachs (whose work you can see below) and Anri Sala. Meanwhile, Frieze Talks curator Hamza Walker introduced a musical component with a recreation of the ’50s TV show Name That Tune that aimed to use music to break down communication barriers and discover people’s “secret lives.”

Walker,the executive director of local non-profit art space LAXART, was also responsible for Frieze Music, which included a late-night concert at NeueHouse Hollywood in partnership with jazz label Blue Note Records and BMW.

He invited pianist Robert Glasper, drummer Chris Dave, bass player Derrick Hodge, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and DJ Jahi Sundance to improvise together. It was a reminder of jazz as a serious art form created by African-American artists (many of whose artistic descendants now reside in LA).

Despite reports of strong sales under the main art tent, Frieze LA’s strength may very well have been the accompanying programming. It acknowledged art that exists in public spaces, as well as the artistic value of film and music.

These kinds of works, although not the main, commercial attraction, are just as important to the fair’s future and expand the possibility of what an art fair can be.

Words by Cedar Pasori
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